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Title: Caged by force, entrapped by discourse : a study of the construction and control of children and their sexualities within residential children's homes.
Author: Green, Lorraine Carol.
Awarding Body: University of Huddersfield
Current Institution: University of Huddersfield
Date of Award: 1998
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Through empirical, qualitative research and theorisation of the associated findings, this thesis investigates how certain children's homes may operate, making specific reference to sexuality and sexual abuse issues. Two children's homes in two different local authorities were researched via ethnographic research over a two year period. This involved utilising participant observation techniques in conjunction with formal interviews and documentary analysis. The documentary analysis entailed analysing logbooks, care plans and policy or practice documents around residential care and sexuality. The number of interviews conducted as part of the ethnographic fieldwork totalled 39 and the interviewees were comprised of residential workers, managers, social workers and children. This fieldwork was supplemented by 64 non-ethnographic interviews with residential staff, ex residents and other relevant personnel such as HIV workers. Both contemporaneous and historical practices and perspectives were evaluated, information about historical practices being drawn from interviews with some workers and ex-residents and from analysis of past documents in the ethnographic studies. Overall information was gained about over 100 different settings and 14 different local authorities. The empirical work commenced in 1994 and was concluded in 1997. Additionally media documents relating to scandals surrounding the sexual abuse of children in these settings were analysed. Children's homes are 'last resort' residential settings that children, predominantly abused teenagers, or those with behavioural problems are placed in by local authorities. Although the monolithic Victorian poorhouses and asylums were their historical predecessors, contemporary children's homes are now becoming increasingly smaller and many are intra community located. Despite assumptions by some commentators that these settings are no longer institutionalised this research showed the converse; many typically incorporating most of the characteristics delineated by Goffman (1961) as defining 'total institutions'. These features included isolation, uniform treatment of residents, rigid regimes, an emphasis on surveillance and control, and divisive child and staff cultures. These institutionalised settings intensified both the potential for, and the actual occurrence of, sexual and other forms of abuse of children by peers, staff and outsiders. Local authorities perpetuated the abuse not only by inadequate training, policies and support but often by failing to investigate allegations or follow them through thorough! y. The social construction of childhood induding child and adolescent, gendered sexuality, affected how children were perceived both generally and with regard to sexuality in these settings. This led to a protectionist, paternalist stance towards children in care which allowed them little voice and few rights. 11 The sexual beliefs, behaviour and responses of both children and staff were also examined in a deconstructionist manner which revealed the impossibility of separating sexuality from notions of either sex or gender. Sexed, sexualised and gendered behaviour was therefore shown to be performative and also subject to interiorisation, although simultaneously incorporating massive anomalies and instabilities. Both the notions of performative gender and institutionalisation were then broadened and evaluated in terms of a wider analysis of power. The institutionalisation and stigmatisation of children in children's homes was shown to be linked at micro, meza and macro levels with concepts of class, dangerousness and deviance. The sexual beliefs and behaviour of staff, children and the organisations they are embedded within was also found not only to be influenced by the settings and organisations themselves but by wider, gendered, legal, social and psychological structures, laws and discourses.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethnography; Children; Gender; Sexuality Sociology Human services Psychology Anthropology Folklore